Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Poetry: The Train by A A Milne

Following this post, I was reminded by a dear reader of the above poem which I loved as a child and would have certainly learnt at drama. The rhythm is great and just what they love. We are working on getting faster without twisting our tongues too much, thank you -- it's perfect for us right now!

The Train by A A Milne

Let it rain, who cares?
I've a train - upstairs,
With a brake that I make from a string sorta thing -
Which works in jerks, 
'Cause it drops in the spring and it stops with the string, 
And the wheels all stick so quick that it feels
Like a thing that I make with a brake, not string.

Let it rain, who cares?
I've a train - upstairs,
With a brake that I make from a string sorta thing -
Which works in jerks, 
'Cause it drops in the spring and it stops with the string,
And that's what I make when the day's all wet, 
It's a good sort of brake, but it hasn't worked yet!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Jamie Oliver's Fruit Cobbler, perfect for the chilly winter nights!

In my early 20s I had a job cooking for 20 or so college students. The brief was to prepare 'homestyle' meals for them to enjoy. This recipe was a favourite, not only for them but myself and my good friend Alyssa who was the manager there. This is easily one of those desserts you can warm up the next day and it's just as delicious! Alyssa, this one is for you! Enjoy :)

The beauty of this recipe is that the ingredients are really up to you. It's really what's in your fridge, pantry or on the kitchen counter. Last night I used frozen mixed berries and beurre bosc pears (as they tend to hold their shape when stewed) and a 'fig' balsamic vinegar, it was a real treat as I had one of my sisters to share it with as well! 

The juices from the fruit and berry mixture are just scrumptious!

Fruit Cobbler, 
taken from Jamie Oliver's 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef' cookbook

2 apricots, stoned and sliced
1 pear, cored and thickely sliced
1 pun net of blackberries
1 pin net of blueberries
1 pin net of raspberries
1/2 apple, grated
5 tbspn sugar
1 good glug of balsamic vinegar

For the topping
6 heaped tbspn butter, chilled
225g self raising flour (wholemeal is fine)
70g sugar
1 large pinch of salt
130ml buttermilk (I use natural yoghurt or flavoured yoghurt)
a little extra sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
Put the fruit into a pan with the sugar and the balsamic vinegar, put the pan over the heat and cook gently until the juices begin to run from the berries. Pour into an ovenproof dish.
Meanwhile make the topping. Rub the cold butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and salt, stir well, then add the buttermilk to form a loose scone-type mixture. Spoon this over the hot fruit (to get a cobbled effect, flick balls of dough randomly over the fruit), sprinkle with a little caster sugar, and bake in preheated oven for 30mins until golden brown.
Serve with vanilla ice-cream.

Other combinations could be: stewed apples and sultanas, stewed apricots, spiced stewed pears.. it's really up to you!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Winter Soup: Ham Hock, pasta and beans, Vogue Entertaining + Travel

Winter time to me means soup. 

The thought of soup simmering away on the stove conjures up so many images. Working, reading or playing near the fireplace, woollen jumpers and thermals, thick socks, breath you can see, lazy days, staying at home, hot food, warm toes, scarfs!

My memories are so vivid of a particular time in my childhood where mum made soup for Sunday lunch. We'd sit at the dining table with our steaming hot soup, hot crunchy bread served straight from the oven still in the baking tray wrapped in foil, trying to open up the foil without burning our fingers with the steam and pick up a roll but dropping it immediately out of our fingers as soon as we picked it up and as just as quickly the firm butter turning into dripping butter as soon as it touched the hot, doughy inside of the bread and straight into our mouths! While sipping our soup we watched the old TCM movies with Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and all those favourites. The wood fire would be burning away nicely not too far away in the lounge room and Mum would be back busy sewing on her machine soon after lunch, the smell of the new material, thread and her Singer machine fills my nose even now so many years later.

Here's a soup which takes me back to those days.

So filling!

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) 
Vogue Entertaining + Travel

2 onions*
2 carrots
3 stalks celery
60g butter, chopped
6 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely chopped*
1 ham hock*
1.5l chicken stock*
575 g fresh borlotti beans*
100g short macaroni or other short soup pasta
1tbspn each chopped flat-leafed parsley, chervil and chives 
finely grated parmesan, to serve

Chop onions, carrots and celery into 1cm pieces. Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, then add ham hock and stock. Simmer gently for 2 hours.
Remove hock from soup, cool slightly then shred meat. Skim excess fat off soup, add ham meat, beans and pasta and cook for 7 minutes or until pasta is al dente and beans are tender. Stir in herbs and season with freshly group black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with parmesan. 

*onions can be substituted for leeks
*a pun net of tomatoes is fine
*the butcher offered to chop the hock into 3 pieces to allow for increase in flavour, which also made it more manageable in the pot as well
*homemade stock if possible
*instead of fresh beans, I used a tin of organic borlotti

This soup can be quite a fatty soup so cooking it a day ahead allows for the fat to settle on top in the fridge, which can be scraped off before reheating.

The children instead of having the soup, had the meat from the ham, a small amount of soup in a big bowl of mashed potato instead which they loved!

And don't forget the bread -- Enjoy!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Until I was married I had only known the cup-a-soup variety of today's soup. It was simple. Boil water, empty sachet into cup, pour boiling water in and stir. Enjoy with hot buttered toast -- delicious! 

That was then; This is now. 

My husband is Singaporean Chinese. I have learnt an incredible amount through him about Asian cuisine and I continue to learn. My mother-in-law is an excellent cook. All her cooking is done with love, generosity and care. She would often make us meals to take home and enjoy for dinner when we'd visit on a Sunday for lunch or at the time when we lived nearby, she'd offer to drop a meal in for us. When I was first pregnant this was an absolute Godsend. One of the first meals she kindly made for us was chicken and sweet corn soup. After a few years, I asked her to show me how to make it and I'm so glad I did! She told me the recipe is from the Hilton, Singapore. 

Yesterday I prepared the stock and today on this chilly evening we enjoyed the soup.

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup
1 chicken breast, cut up finely
1 egg
salt and ground pepper
1/2 spanish onion, finely chopped (brown onion is fine as a substitute) 
1L homemade chicken stock (I like the Massel brand if using a store bought brand)
2 tins creamed corn
1 tin corn kernels
sesame oil
shallots, sliced

Separate egg
Prepare chicken marinade by mixing together chicken with egg white and season with salt & pepper
In a large saucepan, gently fry onion with a little oil until soft
Add marinated chicken to saucepan and cook through
Cover with chicken stock, bring to boil then simmer for ten minutes
Add tins of creamed corn and corn kernels, simmer for a further twenty minutes
Stir through egg yolk
Check for season and add salt and pepper to your taste
Serve with a sesame sauce and shallots and enjoy with your choice of green tea

This soup can easily be extended simply by adding steamed rice on the side and certainly you could add more or less tins of corn or chicken stock.
Divide it up and freeze it for some quick lunches during winter. 

This definitely isn't as simple as my cup-a-soup life was, but it is certainly worth the extra steps. You could still have it with hot buttered toast if you like, although my husband wouldn't agree! 

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